Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Straeuli says All Blacks a flash in pan

RANT The Springboks coached laid into his team's Tri-Nation's rivals ahead of the World Cup and also took a swipe at England for being boring


South Africa coach Rudolph Straeuli believes World Cup favorites New Zealand may have peaked too early for this year's tournament and risk another early exit if they do not maintain their form.

Straeuli also thinks European champions England have unwittingly revealed their secrets by sticking with an aging team while the top three in the 1999 World Cup, Australia, France and South Africa, are still only experimenting.

"I wouldn't read too much into what's happening at the moment," Straeuli told a news conferences on the eve of today's Tri-Nations match with Australia. "Because at the end of the day, we'll all be judged on the World Cup and that's what we're all working towards."

New Zealand have emerged as the early favorites to win the World Cup, hosted by Australia between Oct. 10 and Nov. 22, after thrashing South Africa 52-16 in Pretoria then Australia 50-21 in Sydney in their last two matches.

But Straeuli said the All Blacks also went into the previous two World Cups as favorites only to slip up when it mattered most, losing the 1995 final to the Springboks and their 1999 semi-final to France, a team they had thrashed 54-7 a few months earlier.

"They're [New Zealand] quite confident. They've used that [confidence] in the past going into World Cups, but it's about maintaining it for them," Straeuli said.

"They prefer this style, it might work for them or they might blow in the semis or the final."

England, second favorites to win the World Cup, have been the most settled team in world rugby over the past four seasons, but Straeuli believes their dogged persistence in sticking with the same players could be their downfall because it revealed their strategies to their opponents.

"You have to apply different approaches because everyone will study you," Straeuli said. "If you have an established coach for more than four or five years like Clive Woodward and players like Martin Johnson and Neil Back ... you can't do a lot of foxing around because they're so established. But if you've got a young coach with a new squad you've got the option to rotate and that's what we're doing and a few other teams as well."

South Africa captain Corne Krige said the record loss to New Zealand had become a powerful motivating force for the Springboks.

He said the players had been told to keep reminding themselves of the shame they felt during the match to ensure it never happened again.

"Sometimes you want to forget about a loss like that but not this one, we can learn a lot from that loss," he said.

"I've taken two 50-pointers as captain and I'm not proud of them. What you say behind the poles must come from the heart and the guys know it's not acceptable. Hard words were spoken," he said

Krige said while the Springboks were only focusing on the World Cup they still wanted to win at least one of their remaining two Tri-Nations matches away to Australia and New Zealand to prove they have what it takes to win away from home.

"We've got very fanatical support and that puts a lot of pressure on us to perform in South Africa ... but hopefully the pressure we're putting on ourselves will help us perform better away from home," he said.

"It's important for us to win one of these games away from home, whether it's Australia or New Zealand, to get through the psychological barrier," he said.

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